Thursday, March 11, 2010
Fast food race in China: Subway v. McDonalds
As this March 8th Reuters article explains, fast food giant Subway, which currently has only 150 outlets in China compared to McDonald's 2,000, aims to catch up to the golden arches within 10 years. And why not, with a population of 1.3 billion, China's a potential goldmine for sub sales.
"Our biggest challenge is getting customers to try the product," Subway President Fred DeLuca said, adding that they were considering lowering prices to attract more customers.
Yeah, that can be annoying, when people in foreign lands don't understand your bastardized version of food. But the submarine research brain trust is on the job. The company is testing sandwiches such as Beijing roast duck and local sauces like "hot spicy Szechuan sauce." Guess that makes it local.
Also, and without a hint of irony, DeLuca figures that Subway's emphasis on "fresh eating and lots of vegetables" will help the chain grow as Chinese diners look for healthier options (compared to McDonald's?), with the country becoming aware of obesity. "People are starting to understand there is a bit of a problem. This may match up with our growth trajectory and put us in a position where we can grow quite fast," he said.
So let me get this straight: China had no obesity problem before Western-style fast food and a meat-centered diet was introduced (see T. Colin Campbell's excellent book, The China Study) and now, it's American fast food to the rescue? Oh right, that's the company's solution here at home too.